Donna Hall Mader, of Alexandria, KY, passed away peacefully on July 5, 2023, surrounded by her family. Donna was a devoted and loving wife, mother and grandmother, a tireless early childhood educator, a voracious reader, and a dedicated volunteer who generously gave her time, energy and talents to many areas of her community. Born in Akron, OH in 1929 to Marion Neuzil Hall and Robert Parke Hall, she lived in Columbus as a child, then spent most of her teen years on military bases in Denver, San Francisco, Alabama and Dallas. When her father was deployed to serve in World War II, she and her mother moved back to Columbus, where she finished high school. After the war, her mother moved to Germany to join her father, who was a captain in the occupation army, and Donna moved to Oxford, OH where she attended Western College for Women, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
When her parents returned to the U.S. the three of them moved to Fort Thomas, KY, where she met her future husband, Jack Mader. They were married in 1953. While teaching second grade at A.D. Owens Elementary School in Newport, KY and raising their three children, John, Christine and Jenny, Donna attended night school, earning a master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Cincinnati and a Rank I reading specialist certification from Northern Kentucky University. During her daughters’ teen years, she spent much of her “free time” grading papers and preparing lesson plans on the go at the horse farm where they boarded their horses, and when her daughters caught “the horse show bug,” she fearlessly learned how to pull a horse trailer so they could participate in horse shows around the tri-state, earning herself the title, “Official Horse Show Mother.”
After twenty-six years of teaching, Donna retired with Jack to the Ozark Mountains. In addition to tending to their large organic garden, she stayed engaged and content by volunteering – the county library, Mozark Regional Orchestra, Theodosia United Methodist Church, Meals on Wheels, and the Ozark County Senior Center were just a few of the places where she directed her energy. She also danced and sang each year in the annual SOS show, “Seniors on Stage,” and performed as Mother Goose at local elementary schools. Donna brought enthusiasm, kindness and her sunny spirit to everything she did.
When Jack died in 2001, Donna moved back to Kentucky to be close to their children. Her backyard pool provided endless summertime fun with her grandchildren. For the next twenty years, volunteering was her way of life. Still passionate about early education and the importance of reading, she worked one-on-one with struggling third graders who needed a reading mentor, helping them break through the barriers that were holding them back. The Campbell County Public Library, The Giving Fields in Melbourne, the gardens at the Campbell County Extension Office, Campbell County Retired Teachers Association, Northern Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, the Theatre Dept. at NKU, and St. Paul’s United Church of Christ were additional recipients of her loving spirit and generosity. As she reached her nineties and her body could no longer keep up with her desire to give back to the community, her more energetic pursuits came to an end, but forever the passionate reading advocate, she continued to sew baby bibs for young parents, embroidering them with darling animal designs and words that encouraged reading.
In September 2021, needing extra help with her daily life, Donna moved into The Seasons at Alexandria. She found a kind and caring staff at The Seasons who worked hard to make her life easier and to keep her happy and fulfilled. She made some lovely new friends among the other residents, and she thoroughly and immensely enjoyed visits from her old friends and her family.
Donna was preceded in death by her husband of 48 years, Jack Mader, her daughter, Christine Mader, and her son, John Mader. She is survived by her daughter, Jenny (Carl) Jones; grandchildren Leah Jones-Riblet, Jessica Jones, Weston Jones, Griffin Jones, and Correnzo Volkov; cousins Katy and Andrew Fenn. A Celebration of Life will be held at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Alexandria on Saturday, August 12 at 1:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations in Donna’s memory can be made to P.E.O. – a philanthropic education organization where women “educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans, and stewardship of Cottey College, and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations.” Donations may be sent to the P.E.O. Kentucky State Treasurer: Mrs. Jan Gerdom (PCE- Chapter AP) 628 Blandville Rd., Lexington, KY 40509. For more information about P.E.O. please visit their website at https://www.peointernational.org/